Posts Tagged ‘Tip O’Neill’

Losing at .400

October 25, 2018

Ed Delahanty

It’s been a long time since anyone won a batting title by hitting .400. You have to go all the way back to Ted Williams in 1941 to find one. But you know what’s kind of odd? There are a handful of guys who’ve hit .400 and not won the batting title. Here’s a quick list of them.

First, one of my caveats. This includes on the period since the beginning of the National League in 1876. In the old National Association there were a couple of occasions when someone hit .400 and didn’t win the batting title, but those were incredibly short seasons. There surely were players who hit over .400 in the even older Association of the 1860s and didn’t win a title, but we don’t have enough information to determine them. So it’s at least easier to find the players since 1876 (OK, I’ll admit to being lazy).

1887-Tip O’Neill wins the American Association (it was a Major League in 1887) batting title at .435. Runner up Pete Browning hit .402.

1894-There was something in the water in Philadelphia in 1894 when the entire City of Brotherly Love outfield, and their primary outfield sub all hit .400. Billy Hamilton hit .403. Ed Delahanty hit .405. Sam Thompson hit .415. That was the starting outfield in Philly. Super sub Tuck Turner hit .418. And none of them won the batting title. Boston outfielder Hugh Duffy managed to hit a still record .440 to take the batting title.

1895-Delahanty again hit over .400, this time coming in at .404. Again he lost the batting title. This time to fellow Hall of Famer Jesse Burkett who hit .405.

1896-This time Hughie Jennings hit over .400 by ending up at .401. Burkett again won the title. He managed .410.

That does it for the 19th Century and I suppose I ought to take a moment to remind you that the National League moved the mound back to 60′ 6″ just before the big outbreak of .400 hitting in 1894. Some hitters adjusted more quickly and obviously a lot of pitchers didn’t.

1911-Shoeless Joe Jackson hit .408, which is the record high in the 20th Century for a hitter that didn’t win a batting title. He lost to Ty Cobb who hit .420.

1922-Cobb was on the other end of hitting .400 and losing the batting title in 1922. He hit .401 and lost to George Sisler who hit .420. Interestingly enough, Rogers Hornsby won the National League title at .401. Had he been in the American League, he would have also joined the batting title losers who hit .400.

Thought you might like to know.


My Own Little Hall of Fame: Class of 1905

July 1, 2014

It’s time for my monthly addition to My Own Little Hall of Fame. For those of you who’ve forgotten, this is my attempt to determine what the Hall of Fame would look like if it were formed in 1901 rather than in the 1930s. My primary contention is that a number of players who’ve gotten little consideration for the modern Hall would have been added if the Hall were created earlier. So here’s the Class of 1905.

Tommy Bond

Tommy Bond

Thomas “Tommy” Bond pitched from 1874 through 1884 winning 234 games leading his league in strikeouts wins, and ERA twice each. He also led the National League in shutouts on three occasions. His 1877 and 1878 Boston teams won pennants with him as their primary hurler. One of only a handful of players to work in four different leagues: National Association, National League, American Association, and Union Association.

Bid McPhee

Bid McPhee

John “Bid” McPhee was a star second baseman for Cincinnati in both the National League and the American Association. He holds many fielding records for second basemen. As a hitter he won both a home run and a triples title. Is second among all players with 189 total triples.

"Truthful" Jim Mutrie

“Truthful” Jim Mutrie

James “Truthful Jim” Mutrie managed both the New York Metropolitans of the American Association and the New York Gothams of the National League. Under his leadership the Metropolitans won the 1884 Association pennant and the Gothams won both the 1888 and 1889 National League pennants. The latter teams both won postseason tournaments against their Association rivals. Among managers with 200 or more wins his winning percentage is highest in Major League history. He is credited with coining the name “Giants” for the current New York National League team.

Tip O'Neill, well after his retirement

Tip O’Neill, well after his retirement

James “Tip” O’Neill played outfield for the St. Louis Browns between 1884 and 1889 inclusive and was the first great Canadian player. He led his team to four consecutive pennants (1885-1888) and two disputed postseason championships. He led the Association in hits twice and batting average twice. In 1887 he hit .435 and led the Association in average, home runs, RBIs, doubles, triples, hits, and runs.

Harry Stovey

Harry Stovey

Harry Stovey played both outfield and first base from 1880 through 1893. He led his league in booth runs scored and triples four times, in home runs five times, in stolen bases twice, and in doubles once. His 1888 Philadelphia Athletics team won the second American Association pennant, while his 1890 Boston team won the only Player’s League pennant. In the National League he won a pennant with the 1891 Beaneaters.

And now the commentary.

1. Tommy Bond? Really? Bond only has 180 wins in the National League but is the ace of the first great NL team. I felt that gave him a leg up on other pitchers still not elected and eligible (Mathews, McCormick, Mullane, and Deacon White’s brother Will). As with most pitchers of his era he has only a handful of great years then drops off quickly, perhaps too quickly for many voters. My guess is that if he were elected by the voters in 1905 he would just barely get invited to the Hall. Having said that, I think he’s the best available pitcher, but I am aware that Mullane and Mathews have a  lot more wins, the key pitching stat is 1905.

2. McPhee is now much further down the current list of triples, but in 1905 he was still second (to Anson). He is, by all accounts and by all stats available in 1905, the finest second baseman of the 19th Century.

3. I am absolutely certain that Mutrie should be in the Hall of Fame and, thus, am completely comfortable adding him to the Class of 1905. In 1876 William Hulbert tossed New York out of the National League. No NYC team played at the highest level again until the Metropolitans joined the American Association. Mutrie was a prime mover in creating the team and piloted it to its first successful season. Then he was instrumental in creating the Gothams (Giants) and putting a New York team back into the NL. In many ways he is the father of Major League baseball in New York. He was still alive in 1905, but lived in obscurity. In 1905 only one manager who managed more than one year had a higher winning percentage than Mutrie and he managed all the way back in the National Association (and to this day only Joe McCarthy has a higher winning percentage among managers with 200+ wins). BTW “Truthful Jim” is an ironic nickname (sort of like calling a 6’9″ 300 pound guy “Tiny”). He was known to make up a lot of stuff in order to get what he wanted when it came to his team and his own wealth. That means he’s a bit of a  rogue, but then the real Hall is full of those.

4. Aren’t O’Neill and Stovey a bit of a stretch? O’Neill and Stovey were, to me the best players in the Association (although McPhee also spent a lot of time in the AA, I think both were better than him). By 1905 the Association had been dead for almost 15 years and was already slipping in the public memory. The Reach Guide, newspapers, and other sources have very little on the Association and it was quickly fading from memory. Those new players eligible for a Hall of Fame in 1905 weren’t a particularly exciting lot, so I took the opportunity to add the best of the Association at this point, presuming that the longer I waited, the less likely they would get a call. I’m not at all sure that a real Hall existing in 1905 would have brought them inside. The current Hall certainly hasn’t.

5. OK, fine, but what happened to Pete Browning? I’ll admit that I considered long and hard about Browning. His average is tremendous, but there are three problems. First, he plays in the Association and for almost its entire existence it was considered much the weaker league. I felt that the perceived weakness of the Association would be held against him. Second, yeah he’s got a high average, but he’s got all of 1656 hits and 4820 at bats. Those just aren’t really big numbers, even for the era. He averages 371 at bats per season and 127 hits per season. That’s all. Finally he was universally considered a lousy fielder. Four times he’s in the top four in errors and no contemporary source I could find says anything good about him in the field. So I’m holding him until later. He may still get an invite, but not this time.

6. You seem somewhat unhappy with this list. Are you? Yeah, kinda. On a personal level I have no problem with who I added for 1905. But when trying to figure this out from the point of view of a voter in 1905, I’m not so sure that this is the list that would come out of a vote. As mentioned above, other pitchers have more wins than Bond (and wins is the key stat for pitchers in 1905) and O’Neill and Stovey play in what was almost universally conceded was a weaker league. Even McPhee is questionable because he didn’t hit .300 and in 1905 that mattered a lot. I’m simply concerned that viewing this list from 1905 I may have gotten it wrong.

7. Finally, it was a real problem putting five new members into this Hall of Fame. It’s becoming harder to get five each time because there are only a handful of worthy new candidates showing up each year and the backlog of quality players is quickly reaching the line that separates great players from really good players (and I may have crossed it already with Bond). It may be  a while before there are five new inductees again.




The Pride of the Association

July 29, 2013
Browns third baseman, Arlie Latham

Browns third baseman, Arlie Latham

I’ve contended on this site that there are five true dynasties in the 19th Century: 1870s Boston Red Stockings, 1880s Chicago White Stockings, 1880s St. Louis Browns, 1890’s Boston Beaneaters, and 1890s Baltimore Orioles. Over the years I’ve done posts on four of them. It’s time to take a look at the last, the Browns.

First, to clarify something, this team has nothing to do with the American League St. Louis Browns who are now in Baltimore as the Orioles, which are also not the 1890s Orioles. The 1880s Browns played in the American Association, a league that no longer exists. The team is still around but it’s now the Cardinals (got all that?).

The American Association put a team in St. Louis in 1882. Owned by Chris von der Ahe, a local beer mogul, the team became a contender in 1883, finishing second. It slipped to fourth in 1884, then dominated the Association for the rest of the decade. With the small rosters of the era, much of the team remained consistent through the entire period.

Pat Deasley did the bulk of the catching in 1883 and 1884. In 1885 Doc Bushong took over as the primary backstop with Deasley going to the Giants. Bushong remained with the team through 1887, spending the first two years as the primary catcher and backing up Jack Boyle who remained the starter into the 1890 season. None of them were particularly distinguished, although Boyle did manage to crack 23 home runs over 13 years.

the infield corners consisted of Charlie Comiskey at first and Arlie Latham at third. Comiskey doubled as manager and was considered an above average fielder for is day. He wasn’t an especially good hitter. Latham led off, scored a lot of runs, stole a lot of bases (pre-1900 definition of stolen base), and was generally considered one of the more obnoxious players in the league by his opponents. For most of the era  Bill Gleason handled short. He led the Association in putouts and assists a couple of times, but also led in errors. By the end of the period (1888 and 1889) Bill White (obviously not the 1960s Cardinals first baseman) and Shorty Fuller replaced him. Neither are much remembered today and neither especially deserves to be recalled. Second base went through a series of players. George Strief, Joe Quest, and Sam Barkley all spent one season at second (1883-1885). In 1885 Yank Robinson  showed up as a utility infielder. By 1886 he had the second base job holding it to 1890. His average wasn’t all that great, but he walked a lot and scored over 100 runs four times (three with St. Louis).

There was great consistency in the outfield also. Hugh Nicol held down one corner spot from 1883 through 1886. He was another player whose average wasn’t all that high, but who scored a lot of runs and was considered a fine fielder by 1880s standards. He left for Cincinnati in 1887 and was replaced by first Bob Caruthers (see more on him in the pitcher section of this post), then by Hall of Fame outfielder Tommy McCarthy. The other corner slot was held down, after the 1883 season, by Tip O’Neill. O’Neill is one of the handful of players who can legitimately be called the best 19th Century player not in the Hall of Fame. He hit .326, won the triple crown in 1887 (.425 average, 14 home runs, 123 RBIs), led the Association in hits, average, and RBIs a couple of other times, and was deemed a so-so outfielder. The center fielder in 1883 was Fred Lewis, an early switch hitter who hit .296 for his career. He was replaced in 1885 by Curt Welch, who wasn’t as good at hitting, but was a better outfielder. Welch was gone by 1888, replaced by Harry Lyons in 1888. Lyons managed to hit all of a buck-94 and 1889 found Charlie Duffee in center. A rookie, Duffee managed to lead the Association in strike outs.

As usual with 1880s teams, the pitching staff showed a lot of turnover. Pitchers threw a lot of innings and many of them didn’t last all that long. The 1883 team featured Tony Mullane (who just appeared on the latest Veteran’s Committee Hall of Fame ballot). It was his only year with the team. Jumbo McGinnis Served as the two pitcher. McGinnis stood 5’10” and weighted 197 pounds, hardly a “Jumbo” by today’s standards, but a big man in 1883. He had good years in both ’83 and ’84, then his career came unglued. Dave Foutz joined the team in 1884, replacing Mullane. He remained through 1887 winning 114 games (told you these guys pitched a lot). In 1885 he was joined by Caruthers (see the outfield above). Caruthers remained through 1887 (he and Foutz both went to Brooklyn) winning 106 games, playing 86 games in the outfield (and 23 at first), and hitting .357 with eight home runs in 1887. In 1887 Silver King showed up, earning a spot in the rotation when Caruthers was in the outfield. He became the ace the next season and remained with the Browns through the 1880s. He won 203 total games, 113 with the Browns.

St. Louis finished second in 1883, fourth in 1884, then ran off four consecutive pennants, They finished second in 1889 and had two more good years, although the team changed in 1890 due to the Player’s League. The 1880s produced a proto-World Series and the Browns were involved in one each of the years they won pennants. In 1885 they faced the Chicago White Stockings. Foutz went 2-2, Caruthers 1-1, and the seventh game was a disputed tie. In an 1886 rematch, they defeated Chicago four games to two with O’Neill hitting .400 and blasting two home runs. In 1887 the Series consisted of 15 games with Detroit (a team that included newly elected Hall of Famer Deacon White) winning 10 games while St. Louis picked up only five wins (they played all 15 games, although Detroit got to eight wins quickly). Finally, in 1888 the Giants beat them six games to four. Giants pitcher Tim Keefe set a record by winning four games in postseason play.

Throughout its existence, the American Association was usually viewed as the weaker of the two professional major leagues (the National League being the other). that’s probably true. But that weaker league did produce one of the truly great teams of the 19th Century in the 1880s St. Louis Browns.

Top of the World

October 18, 2012

Triple Crown winner Chuck Klein with a bunch of bats

So far I’ve said little about Miguel Cabrera’s Triple Crown. I tend to worry more about old-time baseball than about the current season, but congratulations are certainly in order. With Detroit still alive in the playoffs he has a chance to do something that’s only been done twice.

Over the years a hitting Triple Crown has been accomplished 16 times. Only twice has the Triple Crown winners team also won the World Series. Here’s a quick review of each Triple Crown winner and where his team finished.

1878–Paul Hines won the Triple Crown for Providence. They finished third in the National League.

1887–Tip O’Neill won the Triple Crown for St. Louis of the American Association (a major league at the time). The team finished first and played a 15 game postseason series against Detroit of the National League (sort of a  primitive World Series). They lost 10 games to 5.

1901–Napoleon LaJoie won the Triple Crown for the Philadelphia Athletics. They finished fourth in the fledgling American League.

1909–Ty Cobb won the Triple Crown at Detroit. The Tigers dropped the World Series to Pittsburgh in seven games.

1922 and 1925–Rogers Hornsby won the Triple Crown while with St. Louis. The Cardinals finished third in 1922 and fourth in 1925. Hornsby became the only player to win a Triple Crown and hit .400 in the same season. He did it both times.

1933–both leagues had a Triple Crown winner (only time that’s happened). Chuck Klein won the NL Triple Crown for the seventh place Phillies, while Jimmie Foxx won the AL Triple Crown for the third place Athletics. As a bit of trivia, both Triple Crown winners played in Philadelphia.

1934–Lou Gehrig won the Triple Crown in one of the few years the Yankees didn’t finish first. They finished second.

1937–Joe Medwick won the last NL Triple Crown for the Cardinals. They rewarded him with a fourth place finish.

1942 and 1947–Ted Williams won the Triple Crown in both seasons. His Boston team finished second in ’42 and third in ’47.

1956–Mickey Mantle became the second Yankee Triple Crown winner and first Triple Crown winner to have his team (the Yankees) win the World Series.

1966–Frank Robinson became the second (with Baltimore). Robinson also became the first (and so far only) black player to win a Triple Crown. 

1967 –Carl Yastrzemski won the Triple Crown with Boston, but the Red Sox lost the World Series in seven games to the Cardinals.

Pitching Triple Crown winners are both more common and have won more frequently. Here’s a list of the pitchers who won both the pitching Triple Crown and the World Series (1800s version or modern version): Tommy Bond in 1877 (there was no postseason play that season but Bond’s Boston team took first place in the regular season), Charles Radbourne in 1884, Tim Keefe in 1888, Christy Mathewson in 1905, Walter Johnson in 1924, Lefty Grove in 1930, Lefty Gomez in 1937, Hal Newhouser in 1945, Sandy Koufax in both 1963 and 1965.

All that indicates that winning a Triple Crown (either variety) is no predictor of success in the postseason. Still, I think I’d rather win one than not.

The Woodstock Wonder

May 25, 2012

Tip O’Neill in 1889 (2 years removed from his Triple Crown)

Canada is not really famous as a hotbed of baseball. It’s much more noted for hockey. But over the century and a half of Major League Baseball, there have been a number of quality players from Canada. Tip O’Neill was one of the best.

For Americans “Tip O’Neill” conjures up the political leader of the 1970s and 1980s. He was from Massachusetts and served as Speaker of the House. According to my research, his dad was a baseball fan and his nickname for his son Thomas was “Tip” in honor of the Woodstock Wonder.

James O’Neill (the ballplayer, not the politician) was born in 1858 in Springfield, Ontario, Canada which is near Woodstock (and let’s admit it, “Springfield Wonder” just doesn’t have the same ring). He was a natural and by 1878 was pitching for his local team, the Woodstock Actives (the family apparently had homes in both towns). He was good enough to get the attention of the New York Gothams, who signed him in 1883. He went 5-12 with a 4 ERA, walked more than he struck out, and hit all of a buck 97. Needless to say, he didn’t stick around.

The still struggling American Association (formed in 1882) was trying to establish itself as a true rival to the powerful National League in 1884. The team in St. Louis, the Browns (now the Cardinals), needed help and picked up O’Neill as both a pitcher and an outfielder. He went 11-4 as a pitcher, hit .276 (second on the team), and found himself becoming the regular left fielder. He blossomed during the next several seasons becoming one of the best players in the AA and helped lead his team to postseason play in 1885, ’86, ’87, and 1888. In 1886 he led the Association in RBIs. He was also adept at “tipping” balls for fouls until he got the pitch he wanted, leading to the “Tip” nickname.

His career year was 1887. He hit .435, had 14 home runs, and 123 RBIs to win the Association’s Triple Crown (the only Association player to win one). Additionally he led the league in doubles with 52, triples with 19, hits with 225, 357 total bases, and runs with 167. No other player in Major League history has ever led the league in all those categories in the same season. It was the first time someone had slugged 50 doubles. He also had 50 walks, which at the time were counted as hits, giving him an average of .492 (the .435 is without the walks and is now considered the official average for the season). His modern numbers included an OBP of .490, a slugging percentage of .691, an OPS of 1.180, and an OPS+ of 213. All led the league. He also hit for the cycle twice in the 1887 season.

He led the Association in both hits and average the next season, then continued to hit .300 or better for three more years. He never again had 50 doubles (his peak was 33). He  had double figure home runs (10) and triple digit RBIs (110) once more each.

In 1890 he jumped to the Player’s League where he hit .302 and led the league in games played. When the league folded after one season, O’Neill went back to St. Louis for one last decent season, then finished his career in Cincinnati in 1892. He hit .250 and retired. 

His numbers are good. For his career he hit .326, had an OBP of .392, slugged .458, for an OPS of .851 (OPS+ 144). He hit 52 home runs, 92 triples, and 222 doubles in 1385 hits (1947 total bases). He scored 879 runs and knocked in 757 in 1052 games. In postseason play he hit only .240, but had 5 home runs and 25 RBIs in a win, two losses, and a tied series.

After retirement, O’Neill stayed in baseball. He was President of the Western League and promoted baseball in Canada. He was killed in a streetcar accident 31 December 1915 in Quebec. He was inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in the first class (1983) and the Hall’s award to the best Canadian ballplayer is named for O’Neill.

With the possible exception of Cy Young, every 19th Century player is obscure, especially Association players. Most fans don’t even know the American Association was ever a Major League. So O’Neill falls victim to the double problem of playing forever ago and playing for a league no one knows existed. Still he was a heck of a player and one I’d vote to send to Cooperstown (You know, you can make a pretty fair team out of non-Hall of Fame 19th Century players). He wouldn’t be my first choice (Deacon White would be) but he’d be way high up the food chain.

Triple Crown, II

March 18, 2010

Following up on the last post about the hitting triple crown,  I want to look at the two triple crown winners of the 19th Century. I would wager they are the most obscure of the entire lot of triple crown winners.

In 1894 Boston outfielder Hugh Duffy won the first triple crown in National League history. His numbers are in a bit of dispute, especially his batting average. No one disputes that whatever the numbers, Duffy wins the triple crown. Duffy was the center fielder for the Boston team in 1894. He hit .440 (All numbers in this post from Nemec’s book. Other sources give numbers that are slightly different.) with 18 home runs and 145 RBIs.  His closest competitors were Ed Delahanty and Sam Thompson at Philadelphia who both hit .407,  Bill Joyce at Washington and Duffy’s teammate Bobby Lowe who both had 17 home runs, and Thompson who had 141 RBI. So Duffy wins the triple crown, but doesn’t run away with anything except the batting title. With only one Major League in 1894, he stands alone atop the lists. What did it get his team? Third place behind John McGraw’s Baltimore Orioles and Monte Ward’s Giants.

The other 19th Century triple crown occurs way back in 1887, when pitchers were still pitching at 55′. That alone makes it unique. There were two leagues, the National League and the American Association. As a rule most scholars see the Association as the weaker of the two leagues, and in 1887  Detroit of the NL wins the “World Series”.  But the great individual season took place in the Association. James Edward “Tip” O’Neill (as far as I know, no kin of the late 20th Century American politician) played left field for the St. Louis Browns (now called the Cardinals). He’d been there since 1884 playing splendidly in each year except his first. In 1887 he peaked. He hit .435 with 14 home runs, and 123 RBIs. Additionally he slugged .692, had 19 triples, 52 doubles, 167 runs scored, 225 hits, 357 total bases, an on base percentage of .490, and an OPS of 1181. All those numbers led the Association. He won the batting title by 33 points, the home run title by four, and the RBI title by only five. In other words, O’Neill had a heck of a year. He led his team to the Association pennant, then had a weak series against National League champ Detroit in the postseason. He hit .200 with one home run (half the Browns’ total), and five RBI’s in 15 games. 

For all that excellence O’Neill has a tainted triple crown. His batting average leads the majors, but his 14 home runs would be tied for fourth in the National League (Bill O’Brien at Washington had 19) and his RBI total would be second in the National League behind Sam Thompson’s 166.

Both Duffy, who is a Hall of Famer, and O’Neill who isn’t, had excellent seasons (O’Neill is the only triple crown winner not in the Hall). Both are now largely forgotten, proving that winning the triple crown doesn’t guarantee a player eternal renown. Maybe it should.

Triple Crowns by team (using modern team name): Cardinals 4 (O’Neill, both Hornsby, Medwick), Red Sox 3 ( both Williams, Yastrzemski), Yankees 2 (Gehrig, Mantle), Braves 1 (Duffy), Tigers 1 (Cobb), Athletics 1 (Foxx), Phillies 1 (Klein), Orioles 1 (Robinson).

By position: Left Field 5 (O’Neill, Medwick, both Williams, Yastrzemski); Center Field 3 (Duffy,Cobb, Mantle); Right Field 2 (Klein, Robinson); Second Base 2 (both Hornsby); First Base 2 (Foxx, Gehrig); Shortstop. Third Base, Catcher, Pitcher 0.

By Decade: 1870s-none, 1880s-1, 1890s-1, 1900s-1, 1910s-none, 1920s-2, 1930s-4, 1940s-2, 1950s-1, 1960s-2, 1970s-2010-none.